Thursday, April 5, 2018

Winning a Hearing / Losing a Hearing

A couple of weeks before Easter, a friend sent a link to an Easter sermon to me and others on his mailing list. He said it was one of the best Easter sermons he had ever heard. I listened to it, and it was all right—but I was unable to appreciate the sermon fully because of the preacher’s public political stance.
Winning a Hearing
Among “progressive” Christians, there seems to be minimal desire to share the “good news” of the Christian faith with those who are not Christians. That is a real problem, I think, and I am growing increasingly weary of progressive Christians eschewing anything thought to smack of evangelism.
For much of my ministry as a pastor and then as a missionary, one of my ongoing concerns was trying to win a hearing. By that I mean the desire to engage other people in such a way that they would give some active attention to what I wanted to share about the Christian faith, which I thought of as “good news,” literally. 
Winning a hearing was a real challenge in Japan where most people were reared with a worldview that was definitely non-Christian. Some were even anti-Christian, although most didn’t have what could be called a personal religious faith.
The majority of the students I taught in a Japanese university were negative not only toward Christianity but to all religion—and quite often more negative toward Shinto and Buddhism than toward Christianity.
My constant challenge was to win a hearing, to spark people’s interest and desire to learn more about Jesus Christ and his life and teachings. Such matters were, I thought, for their personal benefit and for the benefit of the society/world in which they lived.
Losing a Hearing
Back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, more than winning a hearing for the Gospel, some of my missionary colleagues in Japan lost a hearing for the “good news” of Jesus because of their support for the Vietnam War.
There were student protests against that war in Japan just as there were in the States, and missionaries who were vocal in their support of the U.S. war efforts in Vietnam mostly lost any possibility of sharing about Jesus to the many Japanese students who strongly opposed the war. Their political position destroyed their opportunity for Christian witness.
As a pacifist, it was not hard for me to agree with the students in opposing the war in Indochina. My anti-war stance was not a ruse to curry favor among the students but a position I took because of my belief in Jesus.
That position, happily, made it possible for me to win a hearing from many of the students I taught and talked with on campus.
The Case of the Preacher
The preacher of the Resurrection sermon mentioned in the beginning was one of the earliest widely-known Christian pastors publicly to endorse Donald Trump for President. 
I first thought that was probably because of his choosing the “lesser of two evils.” As a strong conservative Christian, he was/is adamantly opposed to abortion and LGBT rights, so he doubtlessly thought he had to oppose Hillary.
But this pastor has continued to be one of DJT’s most vocal supporters in spite of all the charges of political, financial, and moral charges of impropriety. Since his continuing support has given him access to the White House, perhaps an underlying motive is a desire for power and prestige.
So, sadly, while the noted pastor’s sermon on the Resurrection may have been a good one, it is not likely to be heard with appreciation by those who strongly disagree with his blatant political stance.


  1. Interesting Blog Leroy and I am beginning to believe more along your beliefs as I absorb more of your excellent Blogs.
    I think you are referring to Pastor Jefferies from Dallas and I agree with the one who sent you his sermon-he does deliver a dynamic message.
    I am on his mailing list and get his INFO, which I take what I think is from GOD and don`t listen to his politics.
    In your opinion is this a Good thing for me to do because I need to be fed with the Word?

    1. John Tim, yes, I was referring to Pastor Jeffress of FBC, Dallas. I didn't mention his name, for I didn't want my article to sound like a personal attack on him.

      I agree that his Easter message was very well delivered and that it was a good message for those who are professing Christians. I didn't think it probably had much appeal for those who did not already believe in Christ.

      Because of his and other evangelicals' strong, unwavering support of the President, there are many non-Christians who are becoming more and more anti-Christians. If people stumble because of the Christian Gospel, then there is not much that can be done about that. Some people don't want to be told they are sinners who need to repent and turn to God. (But even that message can and should be presented in such a way that God's amazing grace is understood and appreciated.) But I don't think people should be turned against Christianity because of the strong political views of the preacher (or any Christian witness).

      There are a lot of preachers who preach/teach the Bible, and I think you can probably find someone who could feed you with the Word as well as, or probably better than, Rev. Jeffress.

    2. I find that Christian politics is a bilateral beast. People have been burned by all sides. This is not limited to the US, but we have certainly made it an art here. There seems to be antithetically opposite "Christian" worldviews (with good Biblical grounding), and plenty of disturbing statements and meanness to go with it. This has led to Christian on Christian violence both here and around the world. I'm sure God weeps. There are none righteous. Donkey dung is just as vile as Elephant dung, especially when flung by Christians (including preachers, and me).

      God forgive us of our political arrogance, and unloving nature. Help us to find some reconciliation, and some unity in You. God save us. Help us to return our focus to the Good News - Loving You our God, loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving our enemy, loving those of the household of faith.

    3. 1sojourner, please know that I do not oppose the preacher mentioned in my article because I am a Democrat; I object to his political activities because I am trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and to be true to his teachings. (Please note what I said in the third paragraph of my response to my friend John Tim.)

  2. Well, all this is nothing new. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came." (Ezekiel 36:22) Cheap grace has been a problem for a long time. We keep the outer form while losing the inner substance. Economists have a saying that bad money drives out good money. Well, bad religion has a similar effect on good religion. Even marriage has been damaged by the outrages of fundamentalist religion, as increasing numbers of millennials are rejecting marriage as a secondary sign of fundamentalist Christianity; which is, of course, exactly what fundamentalist Christianity has been telling them loudly and longly. Such is the toxicity of "Godly" marriage.

    Jesus warns us not to cast our pearls before swine, and to at times keep the "Messianic Secret." We have to lose the cheap hearing before we can earn a costly hearing. As I recall, those who pray loudly in the temple have their reward, especially if it is broadcast on national TV. After we have done justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly before our God, then, perhaps, we have earned a hearing. Then it is time to speak boldly.

    1. Both polarities, Craig. It's all phony and offensive (and too often deadly).

    2. Thanks, Craig! I especially like your last two sentences.

    3. In response to 1sojourner, I agree there are excesses on both sides. However, I do not see a symmetry in damage. I have read enough "Why I am not a Christian" essays by atheists to know that many (most?) of them flipped from conservative believer to atheist without ever stepping outside fundamentalism. Even within liberal Christianity some have become so hung up on pushing one cause that they have lost the rest of the vision. What I do not see is anywhere enough anger and violence on the Christian left to match the KKK, Christian Identity, sovereign citizens and the like on the right. Indeed, since the election of Trump there has been a outpouring of hate and misinformation from the right. Part of this is the failure of our society to pursue a rational and humane system of economics for several decades. The economic destruction has lead to widespread hopelessness and despair. Indeed, I was not nearly so down on Trump's Inaugural address as some. I think his "American carnage" was a very apt term. I am not nearly so impressed by his policies, but at least he spoke a painful truth that neither party has acknowledged for a long time.

      An example of how this plays out was just cited in the news. Senator Rubio quoted the Bible to condemn the leadership of the young after the Florida shooting. The author I read replied that he had misunderstood the very passage he was quoting. The prophet Isaiah was condemning the leaders of Israel for defaulting on their responsibilities, not condemning the young for stepping into the void of leadership. Which speaks directly to the failure of America to come to terms with an out of control gun policy. What do any of these school shooters have to do with "a well-order militia" or anything close? To access the full article, link here:

  3. Craig, as I just mentioned to Leroy as I read your entries just now, I admire and appreciate the way you seem to understand how it all fits together. The main thing I miss about 2BC, besides Milton, is hearing your take on things in our class.